‘Triangle of Sadness’ Review: Don’t Worry, Be Happy
Ruben Ostlund won the top prize at Cannes for this preening, obvious satire of contemporary hypocrisy.
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By A.O. Scott
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I’m tempted to begin this review of Ruben Ostlund’s “Triangle of Sadness” by apologizing to Lars von Trier and Michael Haneke for the skepticism, ambivalence and outright frustration I’ve expressed toward some of their films in the past. It’s not that I take any of it back: I still find the tendency in European cinema that those directors represent to traffic frequently in facile provocation and sadomasochistic arousal of the bien-pensant bourgeois audience’s eager self-contempt. But the two of them at least approach the boundless awfulness of the modern metropolitan West with formal rigor and intellectual discipline, and for that reason they have sometimes left me not merely annoyed, but genuinely disturbed, even moved.
Ostlund, who, like Haneke, has won the Palme d’Or at Cannes twice — von Trier only managed it once, for “Dancer in the Dark” — is a different matter. They are influential filmmakers. He is, in the debased social media sense of the word, an influencer. He’s like Clarabell to von Trier’s Pagliacci or the Hamburglar to Haneke’s Professor Moriarty: an amusing enough character, but only if you don’t take him too seriously.
Which may suit him fine. His most recent films — “Force Majeure” and the two Cannes laureates, “The Square” and “Triangle of Sadness” — are best when they’re silliest. But Ostlund’s modest comic skills are tethered to grandiose satirical intentions. “Triangle of Sadness,” in effect a shaggy-dog art-house reboot of “Gilligan’s Island,” has many insights to offer about the shallowness of supermodels, the vulgarity of Russian oligarchs and the brutal inequality of global consumer capitalism.
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